Browser maker Opera acquires two mobile ad networks

Buying Mobile Theory and 4th Screen Advertising gives the browser maker ways to deliver ads to mobile devices. Opera also reported stronger quarterly revenue and profits.

Opera's revenue has been growing steadily. In the chart at right, it's measured in millions of Norwegian kroner.
Opera's revenue has been growing steadily. In the chart at right, it's measured in millions of Norwegian kroner. Opera Software

Taking another step to diversify its revenue sources and extend into the mobile market, browser maker Opera Software said it's acquired two mobile ad companies, Mobile Theory and 4th Screen Advertising.

The Norwegian company announced the deals today in conjunction with reporting fourth-quarter financial results. In that quarter, revenue rose from $33.4 million the year earlier to $43.6 million in 2011, while net income of $0.9 million rose to $7.4 million.

The two companies Opera acquired offer demand-side ad networks, Mobile Theory focused on U.S. advertising and 4th Screen focused on Europe. Demand-side ad networks work on behalf of advertisers looking for a place to advertise; Opera two years ago acquired supply-side ad exchange AdMarvel that works on behalf of publishers seeking advertisers.

"With these assets, and our very popular mobile browsers, Opera is uniquely positioned to deliver end-to-end mobile advertising solutions to brands, agencies, publishers, and mobile operators across the globe," Chief Executive Lars Boilesen said in a statement.

Opera is paying $18 million cash for 16-employee Mobile Theory with an earn-out that could add $32 more to the price tag if "aggressive" financial targets are reached. For 4th Screen, with 30 employees, it's paying $8 million in cash, with an earn-out payment that could reach another $6.5 million, Opera said.

In addition, the acquisitions will bring expertise into Opera to help it generate money through its two mobile browsers, Opera Mini and the heavier-duty but less widely used Opera Mobile.

Opera also makes money from search-ad partnerships driven through its mobile and desktop browsers, from licensing its browser to phone and TV makers, and from services for mobile network operators such as placement of their preferred sites on Opera's speed-dial screen.

Opera's mobile browsers will become more important as advertising vehicles with a redesign of the Opera Mini home screens scheduled to debut in the first half of the year. Opera Mini 7 will be able to show ads as well as to show social-network information, offer network operators co-branding options, and adapt to show users' preferred browsing destinations.

Opera also operates an app store through its acquistion of Handster. It supplies more than 45 million downloads a month, Opera said.

Opera had 153 million users of Opera-branded Opera Mini and 57 million Opera desktop users at the end of 2011, the company said. There are somewhat more Opera Mini users since a smaller number use unbranded versions of the browser licensed to other companies.

Opera Mini, the lightweight browser from Opera Software, continues to attract new customers. This chart shows how many people use the browser.
Opera Mini, the lightweight browser from Opera Software, continues to attract new customers. This chart shows how many people use the browser. Opera Software

Updated at 12:49 a.m. PT February 17 to correct financial results for the fourth quarter of 2011. Opera's revenue rose to $43.6 million from $33.4 million the year earlier, and net income rose to $7.4 million from $900,000.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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